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Greens say commitment to adult education vital as valued Friends Centre charity goes into administration

Greens call for review of decision after previously agreed plan for council to provide some adult education services in-house revealed as unachievable

Green Councillors will instruct the council’s standards committee to review why plans to run adult education courses previously provided by a local charity  – agreed earlier this year – have failed.

At a meeting in April, councillors voted to support the city’s Friends Centre charity, agreeing to bring some adult education courses in-house, to be managed by the council. Councillors were told that a transfer of some courses was expected to take place by 1st August.

However, an updated report going to an urgency meeting of Policy and Resources Committee today (July 30th) details that progress on a lease agreement for the building needed to run the courses was not secured in sufficient time – and that the Friends Centre charity entered into administration on 10th July.

This will also affect the Step by Step project, which helped to provide literacy and numeracy support to vulnerable and homeless people.

Brighton and Hove City Council has recently changed leadership, with the Greens becoming the new administration last Thursday, 23rd July.

As a result of amendments supported by all parties on the council today (July 30th), work will now be urgently undertaken to connect any clients with alternative support.

Newly appointed Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee, Councillor Hannah Clare, commented:

“Since taking on the role of new Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee just days ago, I have learned that plans previously agreed to progress with bringing some adult education courses under council management have not been achieved. While in opposition, Green Councillors had supported proposals for the council to manage some services offered by the Friends Centre, agreeing to the plans set out in April.  

“We are deeply saddened to learn that the Friends Centre entered into administration earlier in July.

“Consent has not been granted for the lease on Isetta Square, the location needed to run the courses and to ensure staff could continue their work. This will affect the valued staff at the centre and the course provision. This is deeply disappointing.

“While we are sure this situation is not one any party would have wanted, given the practical, financial and legal implications of the failure to secure this transfer, Greens have now asked that the audit and standards committee of the council undertake a review into why it was not possible for the decision agreed on 30th April to progress. We feel it is important that lessons are learned and we are glad that all parties on the council supported this call, and pushed for urgent action to be taken to assist clients to find alternative provision.”

Pointing to the importance of courses to help people back into employment after the Covid-19 crisis, the new Green-led council has pledged to ensure that adult education remains a priority in the coming weeks and months, and will now reach out to other providers in the city to see what support can be offered to learners.

Cllr Clare added:

“In my new role as Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee, my focus now is to ensure that adult education provision in the city is not lost to those who need it. Greens have now instructed council officials to liaise with other adult education providers in the city, and I have personally reached out to understand what other provision may be available. Greens are committed to ensuring adult learning is available in our city.

“At a time of Covid-19, when many people need assistance with learning and skills, we want to ensure services that people rely on can continue – this will be our focus in the coming weeks and months. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Friends Centre for their incredible service to the city’s adult learners.”

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